This is a guest post by Erin Heeter, Episcopal Relief & Development.
Every October, our Human Resources department at Episcopal Relief & Development organizes our annual In-House Week. This training and development event is held at our headquarters in New York City. All staff, including remote, domestic, and international, come together for a busy, yet energizing week (with breakfast and lunch included of course!). It is the only time during the year that all of our staff are in one place.
The aim of In-House Week is to build a stronger team by engaging everyone in a host of activities that strengthen ties and build awareness and understanding amongst departments. This helps encourage the spirit of collaboration throughout the year. We also believe this goes a long way in helping our organization operate more effectively and leads to our best work.
In-House Week kicks off with a welcome breakfast complete with remarks from senior management, introductions of new staff members, and an icebreaker. For this year’s icebreaker, we asked staff to share what they wanted to be when they grew up, as a child. Along with the usual answers like a doctor or a pilot, we had some fun responses like a Macy’s cashier or Tinker Bell. It led to a lot of laughter, but also provided a little more insight into the people we sit next to on a day-to-day basis.
The remainder of the week is filled with diverse sessions conducted by employees and external consultants. Session topics range from cultural sensitivity, LINGOs/Disaster Ready portal training, travel and medical insurance, to knowledge sharing sessions such as updates on program work, marketing and communications efforts, policy changes, and what’s ahead for the coming year.
A staff care session is a staple, along with a day devoted to departmental and/or interdepartmental meetings. This year, we included sessions on IT and security awareness, emergency prep, and time management. The time management session involved a few games to help staff better understand their internal sense of time and introduce new tactics to help improve their time management in the future.
In one game, staff were paired up and blindfolded. They were then asked to share their three favorite foods in under a 1 minute. This not only revealed something new about a co-worker, but participants were also surprised and delighted to get in touch with their own internal clocks.
While we strive to incorporate community building into all sessions, we also dedicate at least one session specifically to this topic. This year it involved drumming. Every employee was provided with a Djembe drum and with the aid of a facilitator, we achieved a sense of unity and empowerment through individual and synchronized small and whole group drumming. Past community building sessions have included social responsibility and communication styles.
Aside from useful, practical, and educational sessions over the week, we also offer two outings during In-House Week. For the first outing, staff have the option of getting together for an evening of karaoke; it is a tradition of ours. The second outing, which concludes the week, is an off-site staff luncheon that can be held anywhere whether in a restaurant or a river cruise. On a previous outing, our staff luncheon took place on a cruise on the Manhattan Harbor – it was such a hit, employees are still talking about it three years later! We also present employee service awards during this luncheon.
The goal of In-House Week is to not only educate our staff but to also hear them out and allow them to bond and deepen their connections with one another. To make sure this weeklong event is effective, we ask our staff to fill out a survey so that we can continue to have positive experiences in the years to come.